Spring into action now that the warmer months are here

The good news is that cold weather has likely been out of our thoughts for a few months. The bad news: it’s bathing suit and more-revealing-clothes time. But there is more good news: Foods that appeal with freshness (and likely to be lower in calories), and warmer temperature that might encourage exercise. Let’s explore some ways to spring into action.

Start with exploring the potential for growing some good eating. At the least, some basil or a tomato plant; both fit apartment porches and patio garden pots—even a window box with some herbs for flavor and color. From a nutrition point, growing your own gives you the benefit of fresh and nutrients at their best. Herbs mean flavor and help you limit the salt.

Review the list of farmer’s markets in your area. Older adults can get vouchers for local produce through their senior center. All of us can benefit from the fun and freshness at the farmer’s markets.

Make one day a week a veggie day. Break out the bean pot for some soup or a bean dish. Meatless Monday has become an event in some communities. And if you want the benefits of animal protein, make it eggs with a veggie frittata or omelet, or some potato and cheese pierogies. Add a salad and you have a meal.

Join a walking club, yoga class or line dancing group. If you are a loner, think about breaking out the bike or finding an indoor pool. Studies show that at least 30 minutes a day of exercise (and yes it can be in segments), at least five days a week will benefit your heart and add to blood sugar control. Chair exercises count, as well. This is a time to work with a physical therapist or coach who can give you guidelines that fit your medical and physical needs.

Now for some food ideas to consider that have a spring look to them:
Roast or grill some chicken breasts for a meal; make enough for a second meal. Day 1: Chicken with asparagus (it’s a spring joy and great grilled or roasted) and some cooked brown rice sautéed with some onion. Day 2: Chicken salad of chopped celery, dried cranberries or sliced fresh strawberries, and cut up chicken mixed with zero-fat Greek plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Add chopped almonds or walnuts for some healthy fats and added protein and fiber. Serve with whole-grain bread or crackers on a bed of chopped greens.

Strawberries are in and are a great addition to a spinach salad. For protein, top with grilled salmon (or canned drained salmon or tuna), slivers of cooked chicken or ham (lower salt and fat of course). Use your favorite dressing and add some whole grain rolls.

Grilled flat iron steak (low in fat and high in flavor) is a great meat to broil. Cut on the bias and enjoy with a right-sized baked potato and steamed broccoli. The next day, the rest of the flat iron is great sliced on the strawberry and spinach salad, added to a stir-fry vegetable meal, or mixed with a barbeque sauce and enjoyed on a small roll. (The top sliced hot-dog buns are something to consider for sandwiches like barbeque. Add the salad and you have a meal.)

A banana split with cottage cheese topped with fresh sliced strawberries. If you want some crunchies, sprinkle with oatmeal granola.

Smoothies are in and strawberry smoothies are delicious. That new tender spinach may be appealing if green is your thing. All you need is some yogurt, milk or juice, some ice cubes and a blender or smoothie maker.

For more recipes, email me at nutrition@shrs.pitt.edu.

By Judy Dodd, MS, RD, LDN
For Pittsburgh Senior News